Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sea Bass in Potato Crust

IMG_10163 by you.

4 fillets of sea bass (about 1 1/2 lbs)
2 lg Idaho potatoes (1 lb total)
1/2 medium leek (about 3 oz) washed, and finely chopped (1/2 cup)
1 tbsp cottonseed or safflower oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp salt

1. Remove and discard any bones or sinews from the fillets. When cleaned, each fillet should weigh about 5 oz.

2. Peel the potatoes (or leave them unpeeled, if desired) and wash them. Using hte side of a cheese grater with the large holes, shred the potatoes. (You should have about 2 1/2 cups.) Drain well in a colander, then place in a bowl with the leek. Mix well.

3. At cooking time, place the oil and the butter in a large skillet, preferably nonstick, and heat until hot. Meanwhile, sprinkle half the salt on the fillets.

4. When the oil and butter are hot, place four, small, evenly spaced mounds of the shredded potatoes and leek (about 1/3 c each) in the skillet. Press a portion of the fish into each mound, and cover the fish with the remaining potatoes. Sprinkle with the remaining salt.

5. Cook the potato packages over medium to high heat, uncovered for 6-7 minutes. Turn them carefully with a large spatula and cook them for an additional 6-7 minutes. They potatoes should be nicely crusted on both sides and the fish inside lightly cooked. Serve immediately.

I ended up with two large fillets from the fish counter, and I had a bit of trouble cutting them into even portions since both pieces tapered at the end. After hemming and hawing a bit, I opted to cut them into 6 smaller pieces in the hopes that they would cook more evenly. Well, I didn't do a very good job since the pieces varied from 4 1/2 to 7 oz in weight. Oops. I tried to make sure the guys got the bigger pieces since I knew they would have bigger appetites. Troy confessed after everyone left that he was still a bit hungry.

Cheats & Changes:
I think I had way more than a pound's worth of potatoes, which turned out to be a good thing since I almost ran out. Although to be fair, I didn't do a very good job of portioning the potatoes either as I put them in the pan.

I wanted to have my potatoes grated and ready to go before our guests arrived, so I held them in a bowl of ice water to keep them from discoloring. I drained them thoroughly and patted them dry with paper towels before cooking. I used just olive oil (my preferred cooking oil) for browning the potato-fish packets, and I found I needed more than the 2 tablespoons to get them nice and brown. But the tradeoff was that they were a little greasier than I would have liked. I think I might have made my potato layers too thick.

The Verdict:
I thought this was good. I'll confess, I don't cook fish at home very often. It's one of those things that I usually prefer to have in a restaurant, but it's nice to know that I could throw together something like this on my own. The prep was not nearly as time-consuming as I thought. The potato crust method seems a little bit dated, but then this cookbook is 13 years old, so I guess I can't complain about that. I was worried about over or undercooking the fish, but I think the potatoes made it pretty forgiving.

Troy liked this. I think his exact words were, "Hashbrown-wrapped fish, what's not to like?" I think I would have preferred my fish cooked a little more simply, so I'm not sure I'd go to the trouble to make this again.

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